Hooked from page one. There’s so much I love in this book that once I got started, I couldn’t stop and read it in a few days:  Scotland in the 17th century, at the time of the Civil War, romance and time travel, fantasy and magic, adventure and irony.  A Rip in the Veil is book one in Anna Belfrage’s “The Graham Saga” and is a thrilling ride between two different time lines, through the adventurous lives of Alexandra Lind, a 21st century computer engineer still coping with a trauma from her past, and Matthew Graham,  a runaway 17th century convict on his way home to Scotland.

The heroine & the hero: Alex & Matthew

Here are heroine and hero as presented by the author herself in the section bonus material at her website:

Alexandra Lind

Date of Birth: August 24, 1976

Astrological sign: Virgo (“Virgo? How boring is that,” she says with a laugh)

Education: Degrees in Computer Engineering and Programming. Most useful in her new environment she says sarcastically. A karate practitioner since childhood, she holds a black belt 4th dan and has also dabbled in jujitsu. Never got beyond “Smoke on the water” on guitar, but knows the lyrics to all her favourite rock songs – although she’s not quite sure this qualifies as education. Is a proficient user of the staple gun – has used it for everything from upholstery to fixing Halloween disguises. Sadly, staple guns do not exist in the seventeenth century. Good at drawing, crap at sewing and knitting. Used to consider herself a good chess player – until she met Matthew.

Favourite dish: Chocolate cake. Or maybe chocolate mousse, or chocolate ice cream or … Chocolate, she summarises with a little sigh.

Favourite pastime: Hot baths and Matthew.

Matthew Graham

Date of Birth: March 31 in the year of our Lord 1630.

Astrological sign: Aries (but he scoffs at such nonsense)

Education: None from a formal perspective, but he knows his letters, has a knack for ciphering and has most of the Catechism down by heart. (He grins and mimes an aching backside as he explains his Da was most insistent on this.) An intuitive horseman (said with pride), an excellent swordsman – no choice, had he not learnt to wield the sword he’d have died well before his twentieth birthday given the unrest of the times. Quite the marksman with a musket – pistols, he says, are unreliable things. Has gone unbeaten in chess since his Da died, enjoys singing and has a secret passion for John Donne’s poetry – not something he talks all that much about.

Favourite dish: Food, he says with something of a frown. As long as there’s something to eat on a daily basis what does it matter what it is? When I push he admits to a fondness for pork cracklings – and for Alex’ spice cake.

Favourite pastime: Long winter mornings spent in bed. (He winks)

Is it not enough to stir your curiosity?  Let’s go on then.

Echoes of Outlander: Alex vs Claire

Impossible not to hear echoes of the Outlander saga while reading this novel, I bet Anna Belfrage must have read Mrs Gabaldon’s  books and probably liked them, I don’t know if as much as or more than I did… Anyway, each time something reminded me of Outlander for some reason, I found myself  squeeing  with  joy since I like  that saga pretty much.

Caitriona Balfe as Claire, the heroine of Outlander
If you’ve read that Outlander and are in a droughtlander period while waiting for Mrs Gabaldon’s next novel, I’d recommend you to try The Graham Saga to face your withdrawal symptoms,  ready to find a few analogies but also many differences. 

For instance,  Alex is not quite Claire-like:  she happens to find herself back in time in a different way,  there are bizarre characters in her past and her present that say her mother was a witch, she is  not as good as Claire at coping with change. Alex has skills,  but not exactly the most useful ones to survive in ancient Scotland. I think Claire in Outlander is luckier (may I say that?), since she comes from a tough war period, being a combat nurse in WWII. 
Sometimes Claire is so brilliant and smart that you are there in awe and feel so unacceptably weak. Alex, instead, is more … one of us. You can relate to her flawes. She comes from a privileged, comfortable environment, she’s rather fragile having been damaged by a shocking experience in the past and she lands in 17th century Scotland with all her unsolved issues. 

Matthew Graham is her lucky encounter, I bet she couldn’t have survived without his help.   She is a woman  of the 21st century  used to a life of comforts and high tech, that really doesn’t help in wild times, does it?

Yes, it is romance!

So many adventures at stake,  including sibling rivalry or escaping being captured, but Matthew and Alex's story is mainly based on their passionate love relationship. Not a smooth and easy one, certainly, since they are very different and belong to such different times. As Anna Belfrage herself says, 
At times Alex thinks he's an overbearing bastard, at others he's sorely tempted to belt her. But the moment their fingertips graze against each other, the moment their eyes meet, the electrical current that always buzzes between them peaks and surges, it rushes through their veins, it makes their breathing hitch and ... She is his woman, he is her man. That's how it is, that's how it always will be”.

In a Freudian, awkward way, Matthew doesn't realize that the proud, bit bizzarre time traveller he is falling for strongly resembles Margaret, his previous wife, the woman who broke his heart, betrayed him and let him be wrongly accused, mistakenly arrested and finally imprisoned. Matthew's former wife's presence complicates Alex's life in Scotland. Margaret and her son still live in a cottage not far from Matthew's house ... 
Ok then. Time to stop. I don’t want to give away too much so I’ll stop my  ramblings here. Well, maybe, I’ll just warn you that A Rip in the Veil includes some adult content and is followed by 7 more books! Dying to slip away back in time, to Scotland,  and join stubborn Alex and dashing Matthew on their very first meeting?  Have a look here  or  read the first 3 chapters here.

Book Blurb
On a stifling August day in 2002, Alexandra Lind is thrown several centuries backwards in time. She lands at the feet of Matthew Graham - an escaped convict making his way home to Scotland in this the year of our Lord, 1658.
Matthew doesn't quite know what to make of this concussed and injured woman who has seemingly fallen from the skies. What is she, a witch?
Alex gawks at this tall, gaunt man with hazel eyes, dressed in what to her mostly looks like rags. At first she thinks he might be some sort of hermit, an oddball, but she quickly realises the odd one out is she.
Catapulted from a life of modern comfort, Alex grapples with this new existence, further complicated by the dawning realisation that someone from her time has followed her here - and not exactly to extend a helping hand.
Potential compensation for this brutal shift in fate comes in the shape of Matthew - a man she should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. He quickly proves himself a willing and most capable protector, but Matthew comes with baggage of his own, and on occasion it seems his past will see him killed. At times Alex finds it all exceedingly exciting, longing for the structured life she used to have.
How will she ever get back? And more importantly, does she want to?
Read Anna Belfrage's guest post here at FLY HIGH! :

Extraordinary women from Sweden to Rome 

New review coming soon
Have you noticed my latest reads were set both in the period of the English Civil War? Fascinating historical period, isn’t it? Both Deborah Swift’s Spirit of the Highway (HERE) and Anna Belfrage’ s A Rip in the Veil have the same harsh and violent background, a country divided by hatred and politics. Coincidentally,  I’m also teaching the 17th century at school, so ... enough with Roundheads and Cavaliers for a while! That’s why I decided to travel even further back in time. I’m reading one of Elizabeth Storrs’s tales of ancient Rome, Call to Juno. My review is scheduled for  April 19th

Happy Spring Readings, everyone! 


Anna Belfrage said...

Thank you for a beautiful review! :)

Maria Grazia said...

Pleasure. Both reading and reviewing :-)

Carole said...

Hi Maria, looks like a fab book! It would be great if you added your review to the Books You Loved: April collection over at Carole's Chatter. Cheers